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KMS teacher engages students with new flavors

Kopachuck Middle School teacher Kathy Johnson watches as homeroom period student Monique Jaber, 15, samples a peanut butter and jelly breakfast bar that contains cricket flour. “I can’t taste the crickets. It’s really good,” Jaber said.
Kopachuck Middle School teacher Kathy Johnson watches as homeroom period student Monique Jaber, 15, samples a peanut butter and jelly breakfast bar that contains cricket flour. “I can’t taste the crickets. It’s really good,” Jaber said. lgiles@gateline.com

Kopachuck Middle School teacher and choir director Kathy Johnson is blazing a new trail to engage her students.

Hearing that her eighth grade homeroom class was uninterested in the novel they were reading, she switched focus to something sure to grab attention: food. More specifically, Johnson is focusing on nutrition.

“I’m just trying to introduce them to new flavors,” she said of her new curriculum. “They are more interested in this than in the novel I was teaching.”

I’m just trying to introduce them to new flavors...They are more interested in this than in the novel I was teaching.

Kathy Johnson, KMS teacher and choir director

Johnson started the new program mid-January and is now on her second cycle of students, with the third and final group coming through her class at the end of March.

She begins each session with an article published by The Gateway on Jan. 6 on “Bug Chef” David George Gordon and asks her students how the article relates to the school motto.

Johnson also connects her students to the community by inviting local business owners, chefs and other nutrition experts to talk to the class.

“I’m trying to expose kids to new things but tie them into our local communities,” Johnson said.

Windy Payne, owner of For the Love of Spice, is one of the speakers invited by Johnson to talk to the class about adding spices to flavor food without adding calories.

“I want to come in and talk to the kids how you can flavor your food with different herbs and spices to reduce things like sodium,” Payne said. “Having a good foundation of cooking at an early age will just evolve and grow as they become adults which will hopefully translate for them to make better food choices.”

I want to come in and talk to the kids how you can flavor your food with different herbs and spices to reduce things like sodium...Having a good foundation of cooking at an early age will just evolve and grow as they become adults which will hopefully translate for them to make better food choices.

Windy Payne, owner of For the Love of Spice

Other new flavors introduced by Johnson include samples of Dragonfruit and even some Cricket Bars — made with cricket flour — that several students willingly tried, to her surprise.

And the whole program comes with the blessing of KMS Principal Heidi Fedore, Johnson said.

“I’m going off the beaten path with this … (and Fedore) encouraged it, and it seems to be a success,” Johnson said. “(KMS) a fabulous support of talented teachers. (The) kids are great, teachers are great, staff is great.”

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

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